Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Katie Yeakle Talks Selling

"The best careers advice to give to the young is 'Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it'." ~ Katharine Whitehorn, British journalist & writer
I was talking with my good friend Katie Yeakle this past week about marketing and sales. If you don't know her, Katie Yeakle is the Executive Director of the American Writers & Artists Institute.

Katie works with people from all walks of life who are looking to leave the rat race behind and live “the writer’s life” as freelance online & direct response copywriters and artists.

Since 1997, Katie Yeakle and AWAI have helped over 10,000 students learn how to successfully launch freelance writing and graphic design careers and prosper in the $1.8 trillion direct response industry.

To make a long story short, we both agreed that you must create value for your audience and build relationships as a part of the sales process. As a follow up to our conversation she forwarded this article about sales great Joe Girard saying, "Even though he's talking about old-fashion selling, what he says about relationship building is relevant for web."

I immediately asked Kaite if I could re publish this article for CVoD and she agreed. Please enjoy, I think you'll find it useful.
How a funeral turned Joe Girard into the world’s greatest salesperson - By Katie Yeakle
Joe Girard knows how to sell cars.

In fact, he’s listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the world’s greatest salesmen.”

To become known as the world’s greatest salesperson, he used what is perhaps the most underused lead-generation technique in the world. Yet it’s probably the most effective way of getting new business there is.

As a salesperson, it gives you instant credibility with your prospect -- making your prospect more likely to buy from you.

If you’re in sales and you’re not using this technique, you’re working too hard.

The idea came to Girard while he was attending a funeral.

Before I tell you what it is, let’s take a look at some of the most notable selling statistics (courtesy of Tom Sant’s book “The Giants of Sales” in which Girard is profiled) from Girard’s 14-year (1963 to 1977) car-selling career…
• In total, he sold more than 13,000 vehicles.
• That’s an average of six cars sold per day.
• On his best day, he sold 18 vehicles.
• His best month he sold 174.
• In his best year, he sold 1,425 cars.
• By himself, Joe Girard sold more cards than 95 percent of all dealers in North America.
• To make his feat even more incredible, he sold them at retail.
• He received no bulk orders; he sold them one vehicle at a time.
Amazing accomplishments, especially when you consider when he first applied for a job as a car salesman, no one would hire him.

At the time, he was in debt and struggling to keep his family fed.

The sales manager, who finally hired him, at first told him ‘no’ explaining that if he hired Girard his other salespeople wouldn’t like it because their walk-in traffic would be reduced. It was only when Girard said he wasn’t interested in the walk-in traffic and would generate his own leads instead, that he was hired.

He quickly found that selling without access to the walk-in traffic was more difficult than he had hoped it would be.

The first thing he did was grab a phone book and started calling people randomly. He made some headway, but it was tough slogging.
The funeral that change his approach to sales
It was around this time he attended a funeral. It was a Catholic funeral. Mass cards were given out to all those in attendance.

Girard asked the funeral director how he knew how many Mass cards to have printed up for each funeral.

The Funeral Director told Girard that over the years the number of people attending a funeral always seemed to average out to 250. So that’s how many he had printed up each time.

Later on after selling a car to him, he asked a Protestant Funeral Director how many people typically attend a Protestant funeral. He got the same reply “about 250”.

He attended a wedding and asked the same question. The answer was about 250 on the bride’s side and 250 on the groom’s side.
Joe Girard’s “Law of 250”
It was then that he came up with what he called the “Law of 250.”

The basic principle is that most people have about 250 people in their lives that would show up at their funeral or wedding. There are exceptions, of course. Some have more some have less, but generally the average is 250.

So how did he use this information?

First off, he realized that if he did crummy job selling a car to somebody, he could potentially lose 250 more customers.

But, more importantly, if he did a great job he could gain 250 customers.

So Girard reasoned that if he consistently built strong relationships with people and treated them fairly, in the long run, it would make his job a lot easier.

So Girard set his sights on getting referrals from his customers. How did he go about it?

Here are the three main ways…

• First within a few weeks of selling a car to someone, he would call them up and ask them how their car was running. If things were going good, he’d ask for a referral. If they weren’t, he’d fix the problem – then ask for a referral.

• He kept a file listing personal information about each client such as the names of their children, what they did for a living, their birthdays, their kid’s birthdays etc. He’d use the information to personalize his conversations with them. He sincerely cared for people and made them feel special. He created such a positive feeling, they couldn’t wait to recommend him to a friend or relative.

• Every month Girard would send a greeting card to every customer on his list with a simple message. He’d do it month after month, year after year. He knew eventually they’d need a new car and he wanted to always be top of mind. He was careful not to include any product specs, just a simple, friendly message. When appropriate he included an anecdote, a new idea, a news story, a book review, a birthday greeting or a tip he knew they’d be interested in. (Eventually this task became so big; he had to hire someone to do it for him.)

Girard’s dedication to keeping in touch with his customers instilled in them a psychological obligation to do business with him. His customers would never even dream of buying a car from someone else.

Girard has often said he doesn’t believe in hard work. That what he does believe in is working smart. And no one approached selling cars any smarter than Joe Girard did.

As a copywriter if you’re not actively using referrals or have a strategy to ensure repeat business – like the majority of people who have to generate their own leads -- you’re working too hard.

Here are a few referral-related tips you can start using tomorrow:

1) Go the extra mile for your customers and prospects – Do things that will make you stand out for the pack. Every time Bob Bly comes across an article he thinks might interest a customer or a prospect, he sends it to them. Copywriter Malcolm Smith sets up a Google News Alert on topics he feels would interest his customers. If he feels the news story is relevant to his customer, he sends them the link.

2) Make sure your customer knows about every service you provide. -- For example, if you’re customer hires you to write a 20 page promo for the mail, but you also know how to write great lift notes and web-copy, make sure you let they know. This will increase your chances of receiving a referral.

3) Establish relationships with people who sell complimentary products or services – For instance, if you often refer your customers to a certain graphic artist make sure they’re aware that you’d be open to any referrals from them.

4) Ask for a referral – If you don’t ask, chances are you’ll never get a referral. Customers usually don’t volunteer them on their own. When the time seems right, say something like “Do you know anyone else I might be able to help out with their marketing needs?”

5) Always thank your customer for their referral. – Obviously say “thank you”, but why not take it one step further? Send them a “thank you” note or a small gift. It could lead to another referral.

6) Keep your customer informed – Let your customer know what happened when you called the person they referred you to. Offer to keep them in the loop as things progress.

Develop and follow through on a referral and “repeat business” strategy and, like Joe Girard, you’ll find you make more sales and have an easier time doing it.


Next week I'll show you how you can apply this online.

For more from Katie Yeakle and American Writers & Artists Institute please visit the AWAI website: